Life Is Feudal, but is it fun?
Sometimes, you can have all the promise in the world paired with the most excellent ideas, but if you can’t execute your brilliant plans, it all amounts to nothing more that frustration and dismissal. Indeed, if your game has players putzing around in menus more than playing the actual game, you might well have done something horribly, terribly, undeniably wrong.
Life is Feudal: Your Own is a sandbox-style MORPG-style (yes, just one M) title for up to 64 players that allows players to dive into worlds created by other players with characters of their own design. Or, creating their very own worlds to host others in the same manner. Players gather materials, create stuff, combat monsters and more. Players also make their own rules; they can build houses, team up with other players to make villages and have access to terraforming within a game field that spans 3 square kilometers; about 2 by 2 miles. There is an actual MMO on the horizon as well, which will drop, allegedly, in 2016. Neat right? It’s like a super huge, hyper-realistic Minecraft!
Well, I would love to say that this is accurate, but you wouldn’t flipping believe the kinds of issues you’ll face in this particular attempt at a game.
First and foremost, the tutorial will take you an hour or more to read and watch. Thinking I would be able to just dive in and take it from there after reading seven pages of text, I came to find out that nothing about Life is Feudal makes much sense unless you read up on it. So if you happen to have gotten this game, definitely make that your first task. The introduction to the game goes over everything in meticulous detail, but if your title needs this kind of introduction, perhaps its fundamental design is a little on the flawed side.
Controlling your character in Life is Feudal is a bothersome chore as well. Whether using a keyboard and mouse or the Steam Controller (which actually works rather well, considering,) things are stiff and clunky no matter how players go about it. Switching between “mouse look” and “cursor” mode is handled by the Tab button and will often not default back between menu navigation and gameplay. At first, I had no clue that this function even existed until I stumbled across it in the control config menu. But nothing is more frustrating that trying to move around in an environment that only runs at a measly, suicide-inducing eight – yes, eight – frames per second which, at times, would dip to a whopping ZERO.
Screenshots make Life is Feudal look gorgeous, but in motion it looks and feels like a friggin’ slide show, and that’s a terrible shame – and something that’s even more frustrating given that my system specs should be pushing this game around at about 120 frames per second without cranking up the fan speed, and that isn’t even much of an exaggeration. The actual, official solution? Turn all of the effects all the way down. In fact, this has been the same suggestion from the devs themselves for well over a year while stating that the game isn’t optimized for consumer machines. This also means nothing has been done to fix it. In doing so, you will be able to boost performance to about 18 frames per second in forests, and only then, only on a powerhouse rig. However, when the game looks like a PSone game as it will end up doing, it becomes painfully clear that (A) this game’s optimization is butts and (B) you’d be better off playing a PSone game, as they often have better framerates and are, you know, actually fun. Seriously, have you played Einhänder?
Setting up a server for players to explore is done though a series of sliders and various other settings which should be pretty easy to complete. After all, it’s one of the main featured of the game. Level caps and various other conditions can be fiddled with until everything is just as you’d like it. It’s just too bad that every time I tried to set up a server the game would crash so hard I had kill Steam through the task manager.
Which brings us to the gameplay; Character creation is limited to a handful of really ugly dudes and average-looking chicks, each with a selection of various body markings, hairstyles and facial features. Players can fiddle with their attributes to make their characters stronger or weaker depending on what kinds of tasks they want to do in game are. I went with a super ugly, strong, fightery-type guy because I’m more adept and killing junk in these sorts of games than making intricate houses and stuff. I then set out in some other player’s server to see what was up.
I basically ended up collecting a handful of sprouts from various trees, eventually setting out to find some of the people on the server I chose to crash. I found no one. I did find a pathway flanked by wooden spires leading to a building, but the frame rate started to drop into the negatives and I chose to go around a stone wall… and ended up getting perma-stuck in it. Boom, my game was over thanks to the shoddy collision detection and glitched-out stone wall. I killed Steam and tried again.
So I decided that maybe I should try another server with a different character, this time a randomized female adventurer in a burlap skirt. When the world finally queued up, the lighting effects had gone haywire and I was blighted with flashing bloom everywhere. Sure, my FPS was at an impressive 50, but I also needed to take some Tylenol. I found some wild boars, one of which I chased into the ocean, forcing it to drown. Without a knife, I couldn’t skin it or turn it into bacon or whatever, despite the broadsword my character had, so it was a complete waste of effort and time, despite being mildly entertaining. Hm.
And did you know? When you quit the game, it never actually stops. It keeps running, forcing you to deal with it in roundabout ways (like the aforementioned Steam Kill) if you want to even do so much as play another game. This has to be a fault in the programming; it can’t possibly be a feature, even if it was running to keep and maintain a server which, again, is something that I was never able to get running without nosediving the app into oblivion.
There is still one area of Life is Feudal that I particularly liked and that is its sound design; Life is Feudal’s music in particular is pretty great overall, which is a shame, because I really would have liked to hear more, if the gameplay itself didn’t make me want to tear the GPU straight out of my rig. Sound effects are also pretty decent, but the voiceovers your characters will have can be pretty bad at the best of times. Regardless of this, good sound design isn’t near enough to save this game.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, Life is Feudal: Your Own should never have been released in its current state. It’s busted, boring and nigh-unplayable. Get Minecraft instead.
Final Verdict: 2 / 5
Available on: PC (reviewed); Publisher: Bitbox LTD ; Developer: Bitbox LTD ; Players: 1-64; Released: November 17, 2015 ; ESRB: M for Mature ; MSRP: $39.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a review code provided by Life Is Feudal: Your Own’s publisher, Bitbox LTD.